7 Handy Tools That Make Free Tax Filing Possible

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It’s that time of year again — tax season. Wondering where to start? Overwhelmed by advertising promises for tax prep help and wondering where to find free tax filing?

Don’t dive in — or pay up — until you check out these options for filing your taxes for free.

If you live in a state that collects income tax, you may have to pay a nominal fee to file through the services below. If you don’t have to file a state tax return, chances are good you can spend precisely zero dollars to e-file.

This year, Tax Day is Monday, April 15.

7 Ways to File Your Taxes for Free

Tax time has gotten a bit of a bad rap, but it doesn’t have to be so scary. There are plenty of options to file taxes for free, and in many cases you can even get assistance throughout the process at no charge. Here are seven of our favorite free tax preparation services.

1. The IRS

The IRS offers two versions of its Free File program.

The IRS offers two versions of its Free File program. If your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) was less than $79,000 in 2023, you can file your federal return for free through online software. The IRS doesn’t directly provide this service, but it partners with a number of tax preparation companies to facilitate the process in a program called the Free File Alliance.

Some state returns are available for free through these companies, so check for your state before choosing one to file your federal return. If they’re not available, you’ll need to file your state return separately.

Additionally, anyone can e-file their taxes for free directly through the IRS — regardless of income. This is primarily intended as an option for those that come in above the $79,000 AGI threshold, but that’s not a strict requirement.

While the IRS tool provides basic calculations, it doesn’t hold your hand through the process like the IRS’s partners at the lower income level. That means more manual calculations. Additionally, state tax prep isn’t available at this level.

2. United Way MyFreeTaxes

United Way offers the MyFreeTaxes program to people in nearly every basic tax situation. Depending on whether your income was less than or greater than $79,000 last year, you’ll be directed to one of two different self-preparation options, both of which are simple enough to use.

There’s also an option for people who need additional assistance and support filing their taxes. In these cases, United Way pulls in nonprofit partners that are part of the IRS’ Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. This is specifically for anyone who made less than $64,000 in 2023.

United Way’s tax filing services are safe, secure, and have been used by over a million people to date, so you can feel confident with them.

3. TurboTax Free Edition

If your tax return is simple — maybe just one or two W-2s — filing with TurboTax online could be your best option.

The TurboTax Free Edition includes form 1040 and limited credits only. Situations covered include W-2 income, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and child tax credits. About 37% of taxpayers are eligible.

The company also guarantees 100% accurate calculations, so you don’t have to be worried about filing electronically.

If you make less than $100,000, don’t own a home or business and didn’t deal with investments or major medical expenses, this is a great option for you.

Check out The Penny Hoarder review of TurboTax.

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4. H&R Block Free Edition

H&R Block offers a free option for those filing simple returns. This company has been in business for a long time, and offers a lot of useful resources beyond tax preparation.

The aptly-named online Free Edition allows you to e-file federal returns for free, and a state return option is now included with the package — a big convenience.

Check out The Penny Hoarder review of H&R Block Online.

5. TaxSlayer

If a basic 1040 is all you need to file, TaxSlayer will help you do it online for free.

The Simply Free edition offers a deduction finder, and you can add your state return at no charge. TaxSlayer also offers unlimited phone and email support, even with the free tier, which is a major plus.

Finally, active-duty military receive a free classic edition federal tax return through TaxSlayer offers, making this a great option for service members.

6. TaxAct

Also for those filing a basic 1040, with TaxAct it’s free to file a federal return, plus $39.99 per state tax return.

This tier covers W-2 income; tax breaks for dependent deductions, Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and other child tax credits, education expenses for current students and retirement income. It offers its Xpert Assist for $59.99 for those who need help from an expert.

Check out The Penny Hoarder review of TaxAct.

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7. EFile

eFile.com offers free basic federal filing and advises this option if you’re single or married and filing jointly with no dependents.

If you need to file a state return and expect a refund, you can choose to have the fee for your state filing deducted from your refund.

If things get complicated, eFile promises to charge for only the least expensive service you need. There’s no pressure to get a deluxe package if you won’t use all the perks.

Bonus: Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA)

Want to talk it out? Sit down with an IRS volunteer.

If you make $64,000 or less, have a disability or speak limited English, it’s free to use the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program.

Electronic filing is also available in some locations.

Search the IRS database of VITA centers — a lot of them are at local libraries — to see if you need an appointment.

The IRS also offers Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) at some locations. It’s free if you’re over 60, and volunteers are well-versed in financial concerns for retired individuals.

All volunteers are certified by the IRS and many have professional backgrounds in accounting and finance.

Whether you choose to go directly through the IRS or opt for a private company, there have never been more options available for taxpayers to file for free.

Beware Of ‘Freemium’ Tax Software Upgrades

Filing for free is great — but be careful. Many tax software companies provide a free version of their product, then require users to pay for additional tax forms and upgrades.

It’s a practice known as “freemium” and TurboTax got in trouble for it recently.

In March 2022, the Federal Trade Commission issued an administrative complaint against  Intuit (the parent company of TurboTax) for “deceiving consumers with bogus advertisements pitching ‘free’ tax filing that millions of consumers could not use.” A $141 million settlement soon followed.

TurboTax might be free to use through the IRS Free File program (like we described earlier) but more complicated returns cost more.

Tax software companies often push other services, too, like live tax assistance with a professional. Opting for this upgrade will set you back $59.99 with TaxAct.

If you’re trying to file your taxes for free through the IRS’ Free File program, start the process on the IRS website. You won’t be able to take advantage of Free File benefits if you go directly to a company’s website.

Also be aware that while there are many free tax filing options out there, you may need to pay extra to file a more complicated return. Explore all your options — and read the fine print — before filing your return.

Lisa Rowan was a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder and freelancer Dave Schafer contributed to this report. Senior writer Rachel Christian and freelancer Kent McDill contributed to this report.